So you are seriously contemplating using plant breeding software for your research program, but the idea of taking years worth of data that you and previous plant breeders have labored over and importing it into an entirely new system can create both fear and excitement. Fear in that there’s always the question of the unknown. What if some of the data goes missing? What if the system misreads the traits, names, pedigrees, or notations? What if it’s not as you had hoped?
There are indeed a number of challenges that can come with moving legacy data into new plant breeding software; however, think of all the things you’ll be able to do once everything is in one highly-relational database. You’ll be more efficient, saving time and money. You’ll be aided in your analyses, and your decision-making will be backed by more data and information.
If you’ve got chaos in Excel or other programs that you’ve been using, you’ll have chaos in the database unless there is a robust, logical, thorough import process. There has to be a meticulous upfront effort to clean up all existing data before the import.
Yes, getting your data ready for the initial import will take time and work, but it’s absolutely essential. And there are tools and things we can do on our end to help with the process but there must be a commitment to data integrity.
In my opinion, having a rigorous, professional import system that can recognize differences in notation or naming conventions is a must. The system should flag any discrepancies, duplications and misspellings immediately, because in a highly-relational database, everything must connect correctly — from varieties, genotypes, parents and populations, to experiments, years, locations, trials, traits and much more.
When you’re done, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of where you were. This kind of database helps to ensure no previous crosses are repeated and can easily help you find genotypes. It allows direct comparisons between experiments, years, crosses and much more. It also provides a home to photos, so everything is accessible in one place.
If you’re in need of new plant breeding software but are hesitant to make that leap, I encourage you to explore the software that’s available. Be sure to ask specific questions about not just the capability of the software but all aspects. A few questions include:
- What does the import process look like – is it robust, thorough, logical and complete?
- What’s expected of each party involved?
- Is there assistance available to help with the data clean up?
- During the import, how will I know if something isn’t right?
- What happens once the import is complete?
- If I need help, what type of support is available?
Once you make the decision to move forward and commit to data integrity, you won’t look back. Just a few months after completing the process, customers always tell me they wish they wouldn’t have waited so long to make the move. My advice: Don’t let a mental roadblock stand in the way of real progress.
(First published on SeedWorld.com | June 2017)
Dr. Dieter Mulitze is Founder and CEO of Agronomix Software – Plant Breeding Software for breeders and variety testers.